Rock Climbing and Conservation: American West to Patagonia

Spend a semester rock climbing and traveling through the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Greater Canyonlands of Utah, and breathtaking Patagonia. You’ll go into great depth to advance your climbing and outdoor skills for the entire semester while studying pressing environmental issues and participating in hands-on conservation projects.

Program Highlights

  • Develop and hone your skills in bouldering, sport, traditional, and multi-pitch climbing at world-class climbing destinations.
  • Summit iconic sandstone towers and remote alpine walls.
  • Hike through Colorado’s highest peaks, the canyons of Utah, and the backcountry of Patagonia.
  • Learn to comfortably live, travel, and rock climb in the wilderness and international destinations.
  • Investigate pressing conservation issues while working with service partners to protect and restore these wild places.
  • Become part of an incredible community dedicated to personal growth, outdoor exploration, and adventure.

View a Sample Itinerary

Program Overview

Colorado Wilderness Expedition

You begin the course with an 8-day backpacking trip through the rugged Rocky Mountains right outside Leadville, Colorado. Even if you’ve never backpacked before, you learn to live and travel comfortably and confidently in remote and challenging terrain, cooking delicious meals on a single-burner stove and sleeping in lightweight tents. During these first few days, you come together as a community, getting to know each other through evening discussions, being part of a small tent group, and supporting each other as “Leaders of the Day.” Along the way, you’ll also spend a few days at a backcountry alpine rock climbing site, where those with no climbing experience acquire the basics while experienced climbers get to challenge themselves in a new and beautiful setting.

Utah Section

After transitioning back from the wilderness expedition, you’ll be at three different base-camps in the other-wordly landscape of the Greater Canyonlands near Moab, Utah. On the sweeping sandstone walls and iconic towers of the desert, you learn and practice more advanced climbing skills including lead climbing, placing removable protection, building anchors, rock rescue, and multi-pitch systems. Within this extensive skill development, there is ample time simply to have fun climbing and pursue your personal goals.

Rock climbing isn’t the only way to explore the desert, however. In addition to the time we spend climbing, you’ll explore the area through day hikes in labyrinthine canyons, running on world class trails, town days in Moab, and visits to ancient Puebloan cultural sites.

During our time in Utah, you will participate in a 10-day volunteer project to mitigate the impact in climbing areas that have seen increasing visitation and environmental degradation. Whether building trails, restoring campgrounds, or creating belay platforms,  you’ll be part of an important project that helps protect the fragile desert environment.

Patagonia Section

For the culminating section of the course, you will travel to the heart of Patagonia. Here, you apply your climbing and backcountry skills to a new environment, using your knowledge and experience to journey to some of the wildest landscapes in the world. You’ll arrive in Chile Chico, a small town on the border of Chile and Argentina. After a few days in town, exploring the culture and settling in to a different way of life, you’ll set off on a backcountry climbing expedition to Cerro Colorado. After a few days trekking over expansive pampas to get to the mountain, you’ll set up camp beneath the towering peak for a week to practice traditional climbing and attempt to summit this impressive mountain.

The final leg of the Patagonia section is spent in the Cerro Castillo region, an area that has recently been discovered as an international destination for sport climbing. Here, you’ll stay in the charming town of  Villa Cerro Castillo, right along the Carretera Austral, the southern road of Chile. You’ll take more ownership for the day’s climbing activities, deciding where the group climbs, the schedule for the day, and managing setting up and taking down routes. You’ll also get to push yourself physically and solidify the skills you’ve acquired and practiced throughout the semester. Amidst your climbing objectives, you’ll work with locals to ensure proper management of this newly developed activity.

The semester ends with several culminating events. You’ll write and discuss a personal mission statement as well as present your personal environmental ethic to the group. You’ll also complete a 24-36 hour solo, taking the time to reflect on what this experience has meant for you and what you hope to take with you into your future endeavors and adventures.